Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a visual artist whose artworks help in visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity. Her works layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements. The Nigerian artiste, who currently lives in Los Angeles, won the MacArthur Fellowship Award for 2017. As a painter, she experiments with 2-D technology to evoke the burden of identity in the postmodern world.
Akunyili Crosby layers paint, fabric, and photographic source imagery that she transfers or collages onto her surfaces. She constructs scenes that often include figures, sometimes family members, situated in domestic settings. Gleaned from family photos, cutouts from Nigerian newspapers and magazines, and commemorative cloth, the appropriated elements signal the works’ engagement with the world beyond the here and now of the interior scene described – the world of events and history, both collective and personal. For example, in Nwantini (2012), the light and shadows that define the left arm and thigh of the recumbent male figure are the effects of carefully arranged photographic representations of a range of domestic, commercial, and historical scenes. Thus, the painting contains a density of references that convey meaning across multiple registers and speak to disparate times and places simultaneously. This layering also lends a ghostly quality to the pieces.
In Super Blue Omo (2016), the legs of the seated female figure appear to be projected onto the work’s surface. Many layers of materials from different sources overlay one another, with the final effect being that of an image that refuses to stay fixed, vacillating across different cultures and traditions. While her source imagery often references her African heritage, Akunyili Crosby’s works also frequently depict her experiences living in the United States and the point of contact where cultures meet – for example, I Still Face You (2015) portrays her American-born husband seated at a table with her family.
She received her first degree from Swarthmore College, a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate (2006) from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and an M.F.A. (2011) from Yale University. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Hammer Museum, and the Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach), among others. The Los Angeles-based artist will be exhibiting new works at the Baltimore Museum of Art between 25 October 2017 – 18 March 2018. This solo exhibition, curated by Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman, is supposed to be based heavily on her migrant experience. Akunyili’s works enhance the promotion of multiple viewpoints for history and culture.